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How to Treat Aging Skin With Cosmetic Acupuncture

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

cosmetic acupuncture
Cosmetic acupuncture is natural and holistic.

Looking for a treatment that can help smooth fine wrinkles, boost collagen and firm skin? Maybe you’ve heard about cosmetic acupuncture, also known as facial rejuvenation, or an acupuncture face lift, and you’re wondering if it really works. TCM and acupuncture offer a natural, health-centered skin care alternative to surgery and other  procedures for people of all ages who want to look younger and more well-rested.

We all want to look in the mirror and see ourselves looking our best. Cosmetic procedures like plastic surgery and minimally-invasive aesthetic treatments have increased by well over 200% in the past twenty years. People of all genders and ages are showing more interest than ever in anti-aging treatments that can tighten, tone, and brighten the skin, banish puffiness and dark circles under the eyes, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. While advances are continually being made in the field of aesthetic medicine, and the stigma surrounding such treatments has been largely reduced, some of these procedures can be harsh and invasive. Many people may prefer to seek a natural alternative.

The TCM approach to skin care is holistic and health-oriented, focusing on creating healthy, lively skin from the inside out. Finding the root internal causes of dull, sagging skin, lack of muscle tone, dryness and other skin problems, and treating them with targeted acupuncture points, herbs used both topically and internally, and the right nutrition program, can all lead to a more youthful and invigorated appearance. The results, of course, will not change your face so dramatically that you look like a different person. It is important that any time you consider an aesthetic procedure, you manage and maintain realistic expectations. But cosmetic acupuncture treatment can help you to feel better about yourself, inside and out.

What Is an Acupuncture Face Lift?

Cosmetic acupuncture, while seeking to improve the overall appearance of the face and neck, is really based in optimizing the patient’s health throughout the body. Acupuncture needling works on several levels. Usually, we explain how stimulating points with acupuncture affects Qi (life force energy) as it flows through the meridian pathways of the body, producing changes in the function of the organ systems. But it also works on the skin-deep level, creating micro-trauma to the skin and underlying tissues that triggers repair and rebuilding. If you have had acupuncture before, you might have felt your acupuncturist gently turn the needles after inserting them. Research has shown how this age-old technique actually does produce a direct effect on collagen fibers. This is partly why acupuncture treatment helps you heal from musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain conditions. It also helps your skin heal and regenerate.

Acupuncture is also proven to aid in the release of endorphins, which help you feel happier and more relaxed. We all know that a positive outlook can do wonders for your looks. Acupuncture treatment not only gives you the appearance of being well-rested; it actually helps you sleep better and relieves stress that can cause frowning and worry lines.

Your practitioner will choose specific acupoints to target your individual needs, addressing other skin concerns in addition to the signs of aging, including acne and rosacea.

Often, people notice a difference in their appearance right away, as even one treatment can help the skin take on a new glow, and most people emerge from their acupuncture session feeling that they have had a good rest. Generally, we recommend that, in order to see noticeable results, you start with 1-2 treatments per week for at least a few weeks, then continue with a monthly treatment to maintain the results.

A scientific study used topographic imaging to measure the contours of patient’s faces as they underwent a course of five cosmetic acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded, based on the images and patients’ self-assessments, that facial cosmetic acupuncture produced significant improvement in skin elasticity

A systematic review of TCM cosmetic acupuncture study data showed that patients reported positive results, including: fewer wrinkles and better skin condition, with improved moisture content.

Cosmetic Acupuncture Vs. Botox

botox treatment
Acupuncture is a natural alternative to Botox injections.

In recent years, Botox injections have become an extremely popular and acceptable way to combat the primary “problem” of aging skin: wrinkles. Facial skin is creased every time we move the facial muscles to express ourselves. Over time, as skin loses its elasticity, these creases become deeper and more defined. Botox (short for botulinum toxin) is a paralytic agent, which means it temporarily “freezes” or paralyses the muscles that lie under the skin of the face, so that they will not move when a person frowns or smiles. This helps prevent the formation of deeper lines between the eyebrows, for example, or along the nasal-labial folds on either side of the mouth. 

While Botox injections are widely considered safe these days, there are risks involved with treatment. Minor short term side effects can include redness, swelling, headaches, or nausea. In some instances, the muscle paralysing action can spread to more necessary parts of the facial musculature, causing speech problems, trouble swallowing, or trouble breathing. It can also cause parts of the face to droop due to muscle weakness. While many people have experienced satisfaction with wrinkle reduction due to Botox treatment, we have probably all noticed cases in which a person ends up looking unnaturally startled, lop-sided, or simply incapable of normal expression.

The effects of Botox are temporary, and in order to maintain the smoother skin, people must return for more injections every few months. Facial acupuncture, too, should be performed regularly to maintain results, but TCM offers a more comprehensive approach to smoothing and preventing wrinkles by boosting collagen production and circulation, improving skin elasticity. Massage techniques such as Gua Sha can firm and tone the facial muscles so that the whole face still moves naturally. Botox injections don’t do anything to improve the health of your skin or light up your eyes from within. Facial rejuvenation with TCM is essentially a risk-free procedure that can provide natural-looking results.

The TCM Approach to Skin Care

acupuncture face lift
TCM facial rejuvenation starts with your practitioner carefully reading your face.

One of the subtler techniques used by TCM practitioners is that of examining a patient’s physiognomy; that is, deducing problems of physical, emotional, and spiritual health by “reading” a person’s face. We can also tell a lot about a person’s internal condition by studying the skin and nails on their hands. This is an art that the acupuncturist can only master with many years of experience.

For example, if there is a tendency to develop dark circles or bags under the eyes and bruise easily, this indicates a stagnation of blood circulation. That deep crease or “frown line” between the eyebrows may indicate a Liver Qi stagnation. The acupuncturist will choose points to stimulate based on each individual’s constitution, working on deeper levels of stagnation in the organ systems, while also targeting specific muscles in the face and neck that need toning.

Naturally, we also use herbs to help nourish the skin. Traditionally, poultices or face masks have been used to directly bring nutrients to the facial skin, while internal herbs taken as teas help to clear heat and dampness from the body. Your TCM provider may also use cupping to draw out toxins and stimulate the lymphatic system; basically, this is like a deep cleaning for your whole body. 

Top 5 Tips for Natural Skin Care 

facial massage
massage helps tone facial muscles

We cannot emphasize enough that glowing skin starts within. You may already have a daily skin care routine that involves cleansers and moisturizers, but for the best results, be sure to focus equally on keeping the whole body hydrated, cool, and free of toxins. No matter what age you are right now, you can start making your skin a priority with these simple practices:

  1. Drink water and green tea – plenty of water keeps the skin cells “plump.” Green tea has been used for centuries to help maintain clear, hydrated skin.
  2. Get plenty of sleep – There is solid reasoning behind the expression “I need my beauty sleep.” Our cells regenerate and repair themselves while we sleep; this is when the collagen production happens, so give your body plenty of time to do its work. 
  3. Eat the right foods – for healthy skin, make sure to take in enough Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil, good quality eggs, and fresh walnuts), and eat more cooling foods. These include: melon, cucumbers, citrus fruits, cabbage, seaweed, and other greens, mung beans, and soy foods like tofu and tempeh.
  4. Reduce stress –  Stress negatively impacts your skin in a number of ways. Stress can contribute to acne, bags under your eyes, rashes, worry and frown lines, and dryness. Make stress reduction a top priority to improve the overall health of your skin.
  5. Sun Protection – Getting a little sun (about 30 minutes of exposure) every day is important for the proper functioning of your immune system, but too much sun can be damaging to the skin. Whenever possible, protect your skin with light garments and a hat; this is preferable to the constant use of cosmetic sunscreens, most of which contain potentially toxic chemicals. When you must expose more skin to the sun’s rays, use a sunscreen with natural ingredients

Cosmetic Acupuncture Near Me

If you’ve been thinking about what sort of medical aesthetic treatments might be right for you, try cosmetic acupuncture for a more youthful look without any side effects or recovery time. There really is no down side to an acupuncture face lift; in fact, your acupuncturist can treat all of your health concerns–back pain, headache, menopause, etc.–,and add the needles for facial rejuvenation all in the same treatment session. Maybe it’s time to give yourself the gift of a little lift with cosmetic acupuncture.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat a Herniated Disc With Acupuncture & TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

a herniated disc can cause neck pain and pain in the lower back
a herniated disc can cause neck pain, pain in the lower back, and sciatica

Why do I have a sharp shooting pain down one leg? What should I do if my neck is stiff and hurts to turn? What can I do to help a spasm in lower back? Any of these kinds of pain may be caused by a herniated disc, which presses on the spinal nerves. Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for relieving the symptoms of a slipped disc, while also speeding the healing process–all without negative side effects.

A herniated disc, often referred to as a “slipped disc,” or a bulging disc, occurs when damage to one of the shock-absorbing discs of cartilage that sit between the vertebrae creates pressure on the nerves and muscles of the spine. Also called a prolapsed disc, this condition creates inflammation and swelling in a localized area of the spine and can cause severe pain in the neck, lower back pain, sciatica pain, and tingling that radiates down the leg.

The vertebral column, or backbone, is made up of vertebrae (individual bones) and intervertebral discs. These discs provide cushioning in between the bones and act as ligaments that hold the bones together. The discs create a shock absorption system that protects the spinal column, and are made up of tough, fibrous outer layers of cartilage, with a gel-like substance on the inside. If there is damage to the tissues of the outer layer, the soft, gel interior can be pushed outwards and breach the outer wall. This can create pressure against the nerves of the spinal column, resulting in symptoms of nerve entrapment: pain, numbness, and/or loss of ability.

A herniated disc, also referred to as a “ruptured disc,” most often occurs in the lumbar spine. A lumbar herniated disc may cause severe lower back pain if it is pressing on a nerve. Pressure on the sciatic nerve area can also cause shooting pain, burning pain, numbness, and/or tingling in one or both legs–a condition commonly referred to as sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy. The sciatic nerve is actually a large bundle of smaller nerves that connects the base of the spine to the top of the leg, travelling through the buttock area. There is a sciatic nerve bundle on each side. About 90% of cases of sciatica are related to herniated discs.

Cervical disc herniation refers to a prolapsed disc between one of the seven vertebrae of the cervical spine, or neck area. Compression of the nerves due to a herniated disc in the C2 area can cause headache, or pain in the eye or ear. Herniation of a disc further down the cervical spine happens most commonly in the C5, C6, or C7 area, which can lead to neck pain and/or shoulder pain.

Most of the time, sciatic pain or neck pain due to nerve compression in the spine goes away gradually on its own, but it can cause a lot of suffering over the course of several weeks or months before resolving itself. Medical treatment for herniated disc pain typically involves the recommendation of rest and immobilisation and the use of anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, and pain relievers. However, lack of movement does not really help improve the root cause of the pain, and the use of pain medications or steroids is often accompanied by unwanted side effects. Acupuncture treatment can significantly reduce acute pain related to sciatica, neck pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain due to slipped discs, often providing immediate, short-term relief of severe pain, while helping, long-term, to reduce inflammation and help heal nerve damage.

Signs of Herniated Disc

When a disc herniates, pain can be sharp and intense. Depending on which disc is affected, there may be neck pain, low back pain, or sciatic pain in the leg, foot, or buttock area. Pain or numbness are caused by the inflammation of the nerve area that is being compressed by the extrusion of the center of the disc.

  • A cervical herniated disc (in the neck) may cause burning pain in the side of the neck or sharp pain in the back of the neck. Or there may be a more subtle sensation where the neck is tender to the touch. The pain is usually worse when performing vigorous activities or when twisting or turning the head at a certain angle. The overall movement of the neck and head may feel limited and stiff.
  • Pain may radiate down the arm and cause an “electric shock-like” sensation in the hand and fingers.
  • Weakness in the muscular movement of the shoulder, arm, hand, thumb and fingers may result from the pinching of the nerves of the cervical spine.
  • A lumbar herniated disc (in the lower back) is more likely to cause pain down the leg than in the back. Usually the pain is just on one side of the body. This radiating pain caused by compression of the sciatic nerve can be sharp, burning, and very intense. 
  • Herniation of a lumbar disc can also cause pain in the low back or buttock. This pain may be of the “throbbing” type, or feel like a spasm. It may be helped by applying cold or heat to the area. The pain typically is worse after sitting or hunching over for a while, or when bending over from the waist.
  • The sensation in the buttock, hip, leg and foot may be more like tingling or numbness than searing pain.
  • “Foot drop” is when the nerve compression makes it difficult to fully pick up the foot when walking, so that the toes drag on the floor.

The kind of pain caused by a herniated disc can come on quite suddenly and strongly. Fortunately, the pain caused by most herniations of spinal discs resolves in a matter of time without surgery.

What Causes Herniated Disc?

Slipped discs, or bulging disks, happen most often to people between the ages of 30 and 50. The ruptured disk may happen due to one sudden movement, like lifting something heavy, twisting an awkward way, or even a strong sneeze. But prior to such an event, there was probably some weakness already developing in the outer walls of the disc. 

Degeneration of the discs can occur over time due to aging. A chronic herniation can develop slowly over years and cause mild symptoms. An acute herniation might happen as the result of some trauma, like an accident, which could create more serious damage to the outer layers of the disc (the annulus fibrosus), allowing the jelly-like material inside (the nucleus pulposus) to extrude, or squeeze out of containment.

Surgery for herniated disc is only recommended in rare cases (10-20%), sometimes if the prolapsed disc is affecting the nerves in such a way that bladder or bowel function is negatively impacted. Surgery may also be considered if pain is severe and continues for a long time without getting better. Herniated disc surgery attempts to relieve the nerve compression by removing some of the disc tissue. In cases where there is more extensive degeneration of the spine, a spinal fusion procedure may involve “fusing” the vertebrae together with screws while removing the original disc tissue and replacing it with an implant. These types of surgeries for herniated disc may help alleviate pain, but there can still be a long recovery period, and the pain is not guaranteed to go away.

Can Acupuncture Help a Herniated Disc?

moxibustion
Moxibustion cultivates heat energy

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been developed over the course of thousands of years to deal with all types of pain conditions. In the TCM view, herniated disc pain is caused by:

  1. Injury to the spine
  2. Invasion of cold, wind, or damp
  3. Liver and/or kidney deficiency

In addition to acupuncture treatment, which involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points along the meridians of the body, we also use treatments such as moxibustion and infrared heat lamps to bring warm energy to parts of the body. TCM treatment for herniated disc will often focus on strengthening the Qi (life force energy) and blood flow to the kidneys, and clearing dampness and bringing warmth to the whole lower back area.

One clinical trial conducted in a hospital demonstrated that acupuncture treatment combined with the application of moxa warm needle therapy with infrared heat and gentle exercise resulted in reporting of 95% improvement in pain related to lumbar herniated disc.

A recent systematic review of acupuncture treatment for disc herniation concluded that acupuncture provided better results than pain medications or lumbar traction.

A study that focused on long-term outcomes for patients with lumbar disc herniation showed that ten years after receiving electric acupuncture treatment for their pain they reported positive long-term results, acupuncture having helped to resolve their sciatica symptoms.

Top 5 Tips for How to Heal a Herniated Disc Naturally

walnuts are a great source of Omegas
walnuts are a great source of Omegas

Most pain due to herniated disc will resolve itself in about six weeks without medical treatment. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help reduce pain and restore freedom of movement.

  1. Seek out treatment from a qualified acupuncturist. A combination of acupuncture, herbal supplementation, tuina massage, moxibustion, and infrared heat therapy will go a long way towards relieving pain and encouraging healing.
  2. Heat and Cold Therapy. Try using a heating pad or hot water bottle to apply gentle heat to the lower back or neck. Alternate with icing the affected area. This helps bring more blood flow to the area, reduces inflammation, and soothes stiffness.
  3. Stay active. It can be tempting to stay in bed when lower back pain and sciatica are causing intense pain or tingling sensations. But immobilisation does not really do anything to help heal nerve pain, and it is actually more beneficial to keep the muscles of the back body strong. Engaging regularly in low-impact activities like walking, biking, or swimming will help keep endorphins flowing and your mood positive better than bed rest will.
  4. Check your sleeping position. Staying in bed can also hurt when you have a slipped disc. Use a pillow to bolster your knees to help relieve tension in the lower back and keep the spine in proper alignment. Use a firm orthopedic pillow to keep the neck aligned.
  5. Nutrition for nerve health. Certain nutrients can be especially beneficial for building and maintaining nerve tissues. Emphasize B-6 and B-12 vitamins, Vitamin E and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in your diet and with high quality supplements. Nuts, fish, and good plant-based oils should be consumed regularly. 

Regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and good nutrition, as always, will go a long way towards helping ensure that a pain condition resolves itself fully and does not return. 

Acupuncture Near Me for Herniated Disc

At Art of Wellness, Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai have over 30 years of experience helping patients with acute and chronic pain due to neurological conditions. Pain due to a herniated disc can be effectively reduced by regular acupuncture treatment, while Chinese herbs and therapeutic massage can help bring healing to the nerves and spine, and help prevent future problems with herniated disc and sciatica.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

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